Court Appointed Special Advocates of Northeast Tennessee has expanded its volunteer advocacy services for abused and neglected children to the Circuit Courts of Washington, Unicoi, Carter and Johnson counties.
The volunteer advocacy program that has long assisted in the investigation of child abuse and neglect cases for the juvenile courts of Johnson City and Washington, Unicoi and Greene counties entered a new partnership with the Circuit Courts of the four-county 1st Judicial District in July.
Joy McCray executive director of CASA of NET, said the partnership was initiated to assist Circuit Court judges Tom Seeley and Jean Stanley with cases of child abuse and neglect that arise from divorce and custody proceedings.
As in the juvenile courts, she said, CASA volunteers will be assigned by the judges to investigate the homes and circumstances of children who come under the courts’ jurisdiction through no fault of their own, to report their findings to the courts, to give children a voice in court, and to make recommendations for the judges to consider in determining the best placement for the child.
With the expansion, McCray said CASA is stepping up its recruitment of and training of volunteer court advocates in order to increase the number of volunteers available to the Circuit Court judges, particularly in Johnson and Carter counties where the CASA program has not previously been available.
If the Circuit Court partnership succeeds in those counties, McCray said the next step will be to make the CASA program available to juvenile courts of Carter and Johnson counties as well. But for now, the focus is to recruit and train additional volunteer advocates.
“We have had some big growth recently and we’ve done that by offering more training, more community outreach and by revamping our training so that its available during the daytime and at night in Johnson City and in Greeneville,” McCray said.
“We would love to have volunteers who live in Johnson and Carter counties because its sometimes easier for our volunteers to live in the county where they serve. But all that’s really required is a heart for service.”
CASA will conduct two volunteer orientation sessions Thursday, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Good Samaritan Ministries at 100 N. Roan St. in Johnson City and beginning at 10 a.m. at the Nathaniel Greene Museum located at 310 S. Main St., in Greeneville
Training will be held at Good Samaritan Ministries Monday and Thursday evenings from 5:30 to 8:30 beginning on Monday, and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Nathaniel Greene Museum, beginning on Tuesday. The training will continue through early December.
McCray encouraged volunteers who are unable to attend Thursday’s orientation who wish to learn more about the program to call the CASA office at 461-3500 for information or for an individual orientation for the upcoming training sessions.
More information about the local CASA program is also available online at www.casanetn.org.